The power of women: National Health Bill Passed
One of the most powerful tool women have is their “voice” which is used to transform words to action. This was demonstrated in FCT, Abuja on the 18th of May, when thousands of Nigeria women and public health activists crowded around the National Assembly complex in protest over the delay of passing the Health Bill. In less than 24hrs the National Health Bill which has been pending for years was passed by the National Assembly.
Some of the placards bore the inscriptions: "Market Women Association (FCT), Pass the National Health Bill; 241,000 new born die yearly!!! Stop the death!! Nigeria needs the Health Bill; Life Expectancy: Nigeria - 42 years, Ghana - 60 years"; and "we have voted, give us health care, pass the Bill"; "fix the health system, pass the National Health Bill," among others.
The women, though armed with only placards, were only let into the premises of the national assembly to use the protest ground after they threatened to go nude.
The protesters were however pacified by the Senate Health Committee Chairman, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, who, in the company of Senator Gyang Dantong (PDP, Plateau), assured them that work was in progress on the Bill. Senate Iyabo said the seeming delay in passing the National Health Bill was informed by the need to ensure that all necessary variables that will make it people-oriented and beneficial were taken care of.
The protesting women, mostly members of the Federal Capital Territory said the lawmakers were delaying over the bill, whose passage would strengthen the primary healthcare system and reduce cost of medical care for rural dwellers.
According to the Senate President, David Mark, he said, the bill was not passed as a result of the women protesters that demanded immediate passage of the bill. It is true that the bill has taken a while but we were able to pass it. Anything that has to do with health has to pass through rigorous scrutiny. We did not pass the bill because people were protesting yesterday; we are only doing our work. The bill was slated in the order paper yesterday when they were protesting.
One could have assumed that it is one of those things that women make noise about but indeed the noise worked. It was effective and powerful and there was immediate action.
I say a big congratulation to all Nigerian Women and especially the market women who formed major part of the team. This is to say that all women either educated or not educated have a big role to play in National development. Women should appreciate themselves and know what they worth. I am glad for my country women and I am sure we are getting there.
Women have indeed made real difference and bring about a change for the Nation; they have to transform words into action and results.
The challenge now lies in the implementation of the bill to meet up the people’s expectation. We expect a good health care system for all especially for women and children. We hope that maternal mortality and child mortality will reduce to meet up the 2015 MDGs. We hope to have our hospitals equipped and furnished with live saving tool and drug. There will be no more situation of emergency and there are no doctors in the health centre to attend to patience, there should be no more shortage of drugs supply and our medical personnel should receive more training on life-saving skills.
Though there is no Minister of Health as at now, yet the bill was passed just few days to dissolve the house for the new elected Senators to take over.
It now requires governments and the international community at large to stand by their commitments and to allocate resources to translate them into action.